Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'Tis the time for eggs

With Easter right around the corner, I thought this was a good time to talk about pysanky.  Pysanky, which I think translates to something like 'eggs with writing on them', is the traditional Ukrainian egg decorating method.

I haven't managed to partake in this craft for a few years, but I have kept my little egg babies from before children.  Believe me, once you invest this much time in an egg, you hold on to them!  I'm afraid you will have to be very organized and very motivated to take up pysanky when you have little ones running around the house.

I won't go into the details of the 'how-to's' of this amazing craft, because it's been well covered on the internet by people wiser than me.  (Here's a good link if you're curious.)  In my experience of teaching others the art of pysanky, it seems that people fall into one of two categories:  Those that get it, and those that don't.  I'll explain.

Pysanky is basically drawing on the egg with melted wax.  It's almost the exact same technique as batik, but on a different medium.  So you start with a naked egg and apply wax to everywhere you want the egg to stay white. (Assuming, of course, you're using a white egg).  Then you dye it your first colour... say, yellow.  Then you apply wax to everywhere you want the design to stay yellow.  Then you dye it again.  And so on.

It's not really complicated, but it is a long process.  My experience is that some people have a very hard time with the 'negative' view (meaning, covering the parts you want to stay a certain colour).  Or call it the 'backwards' design.  I can't really explain it, but some brains can't seem to do the design backwards.  Hey! If that's you, don't sweat it.  It's just eggs after all!

My approach over the years has been to explore traditional designs, but also look at other inspirations.  Quilting, which I also love, is a great design resource for decorating eggs.  This book is my absolute favourite for stretching the boundaries of egg-design.  (My husband would call me a mega-nerd for just writing that sentence... that's me, Ol' Egg-Head Mc Nerderton).

So, on with the eggs!

Here are a few of my favourites:

There is a definite need for a 'zen' philosophy when you work on something as fragile as a real egg.  They can smash at any point!  I've been 99% done a design and have it crack, or drop it, etc.  There is something meditative about the process, but it's also a little hard on the back.  Just try and do pysanky without getting a stiff neck!

I always liked finding the smallest sized eggs, because they just look so darn cute when they're done.  Brown eggs are a nice route to go too.  I always blow out the contents after they're done so that the shells aren't full of dye.  There's lots of options, including leaving the contents in, but I was never that brave.  I always imagined them breaking at the stinkiest point and living with rotten egg smell forever!

Good luck to all who give it a go!  Happy decorating.


  1. Gorgeous.... oxNay

  2. I'm trying to find step by step instructions for the double wedding ring. Any help?